The short answer is we really don’t know-but we now have the ability to get a pretty close approximation.
As previously discussed, investigators from Johns Hopkins and the University of Mississippi Medical Center recently published an important study in which they looked at peripheral neuropathy (PN) in a cohort of significant size.
In their prospective cohort study, the authors reviewed charts from the NHANES data base of 7116 adults aged 40 years or older who had standardized testing with a 5.07 Semmes-Weinstein/10-gram monofilament (SWMF) to the feet. PN was defined as having at least one insensate site on either foot. The authors estimated that, among U.S. adults 40 years or older, based on the 2010 census, 35 million adults in the US suffer from PN.
But the inability to sense a 5.07 SWMF at one or more sites on either foot is a high bar for the clinical diagnosis PN. Many patients have PN and yet are not insensate at any site on their feet. As such, the true number of people in the US with the clinical diagnosis of PN is likely higher than 35 million-considerably higher.
The estimate can be significantly improved and our profession is ideally positioned to do this. All that needs to be determined is the proportion of our patients with the clinical diagnosis of PN who have at least one insensate site on either foot as compared with the proportion of patients with the clinical diagnosis of PN who have no insensate sites on either foot. If, for example, we find that 80% of our patients with PN have one or more insensate sites on their feet and 20% have no insensate sites, then we can extrapolate that the number of people in the US with the clinical diagnosis of PN is closer to 43.75 million (if 80%=35 million then 100%=43.75 million).
Hopefully, enough podiatrists will participate in gathering this data to make our results statistically significant and we can publish our findings.
If this interests you and you would like to participate in such a study, simply send an email to email@example.com by June 30, 2022 with your name and the comment “I am interested in participating in the study”. Should you decide to participate, I’ll get back to you with the details. Of course, you are always welcome to call me at 561-549-9099 should you want to further discuss this.